Donald Trump wants a Wall, as well as any number of hard-line immigration actions.
Democrats and a good number of Republicans want to repair the situation that the president created for the estimated 800,000 Dreamers, young people and adults brought here by their parents without full documentation who have been allowed to remain and shine in this country with the promise of permanence.
Therefore, we have negotiations in Washington for a trade, with both sides allowing rhetoric to rise as high as The Wall, generally featuring ugly, insistent sloganeering standing in for problem-solving.
The only thing for sure right now is that the Senate cannot pass an immigration-related law on 50 votes; there are 51 Republican senators. It needs 60, or nine Democrats. And Democrats know it, and want their say to count. The president doesn’t really care what the details are so long as he has a Wall at the end of the discussion. And that despite whatever happens in the Senate on immigration (an immigration bill has passed three times), it is likely to die in the House, where Republicans are split.
Actually, in remarks to congressional leaders (minus the most conservative Republicans) yesterday, President Trump seemed to endorse several different positions, including a more sweeping approach to an immigration deal. He said that he would be willing to “take the heat” politically for an approach to citizenship that many of his supporters have long viewed as unacceptable, after first passing a “bill of love” trading DACA Dreamers a permanent home in trade for some kind of “wall.” He seemed to be more flexible than in previous statements about whether the Wall was the same as border security. It was all a bit murky.
It’s not my place, but I’m offering a solution.
How about a very old-fashioned vote on each of the issues, rather than creating yet another jerry-rigged combination as Washington has come to rely on?
Here’s what I’d bet: The Wall would lose to a majority of Democrats, deficit hawks and people who have the common sense to recognize that a Maginot Line went out of fashion as a modern border security tool long ago. (Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-CA futilely proposed this yesterday).
A fix to DACA just might win, with a combination of Democrats and some Republicans who believe in promises and fairness. If you wanted to guarantee it, you could agree on a mutually acceptable list of border technology surveillance tools.
Have an up-or-down vote on ending “chain migration,” once someone actually defines how that is supposed to work for family members of immigrants who arrived here without documentation, and vote again on ending the idea of visa “lotteries,” which allow a revolving number of legal arrivals from less-numerous countries of emigration.
And that would be found unacceptable to Republicans.
It seems clear in every poll of voters, every news interview with actual Americans outside Washington, every focus group that what upsets people The Most is a perception that nothing can get done in Washington. The second, of course, is the stuff that does get done, which alternately pleases or pushes against the values held in a deeply split nation.
Every year, it seems, Washington loves big bills, big legislative compromises more and more. It is a way to allow all sides to claim a partial victory in any such large-scale compromise. That gives legislators something to tell their donors, since the prime job of legislators is re-election, not getting laws in place that help people.
Add to that the current fervor for spreading fear rather than reason and for using isolated crimes to justify a police state at the border.
In this case, the rhetoric is out of control — again.
Even in Israel, the one example cited by the White House as successful, the idea of a wall works because there are Israeli soldiers with machine guns along the length of the West Bank, with barbed wire crossings that hinder jobs and business as much as it provides some level of security. Let’s see, that Wall approach was the same as was the hated symbol of Communist authoritarianism in Berlin for decades, and there was glee on both sides of the wall when people broke through the concrete.
But Trump built his campaign for president on the promise of a Wall, across 2,000 miles of Southern border, paid for by Mexico. Instead, the proposal is for $18 billion for the construction alone, and that for under 400 miles. Add to that the price of 5,000 additional border patrol agents (NBC was reporting that there is such churn among current agents that the Border Patrol actually has a yearly deficit in hiring.), the technology to provide electronic surveillance, and any number of planes, boats, trucks, jails, detention centers and an expanded immigration court. Trump also demands an end to so-called sanctuary cities or states, meaning that police and court officials across the nation should be turning any immigrant who commits a traffic offense over to ICE for deportation.
I do care about immigration. But I care about a lot of government areas from education to environment, support for the arts as well as the military, certainty for food stamp recipients, health care insures and services for the vulnerable in our society.
These uniform attempts to roll all things into a single vote do not serve any of us or all of us. Sometimes it would prove really useful to understand our values to vote on separate issues.